It was a dark day – between the sixth hour (3pm) and the ninth hour (6pm), there was darkness over the land. There’s not a lot of corroboration of that from outside the Bible – but 8th Century Syncellus cites a book from 220AD by Julius Africanus who cites Thallus from around 52AD who tried to explain it away as a solar eclipse. Citations like that aren’t hugely helpful for convincing sceptics! Of course a solar eclipse doesn’t last three hours, but it is interesting that a Roman pagan historian is trying to explain away a nature miracle.
It was a dark day because Satan thought he had won, destroying the Son of God.
It was a dark day because the disciples had fled, convinced now that Jesus wasn’t the kind of Messiah the Jews really wanted, a political one who would overthrow the Romans and bring a glorious new day to Israel.
It was a dark day, because Jesus cried out “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” Notice everywhere else Jesus prays to his Father but here, as all of our sin is placed on Him and He takes all of God’s wrath for sin on Him, Jesus can only cry out the less intimate “My God.”
It was a good day because at the very moment that Jesus yielded His spirit to death, all of history suddenly turned.
The temple curtain has torn in two from top to bottom. The curtain separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, was 18m tall and made of thick material. Nothing said better “No Access.” But torn in two from the top down, in other words not by man who would have torn it from bottom upwards, there is free access.
Hebrews 10:19-22 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. “
That “And behold the curtain of the temple was torn in two” is followed by five more “Ands” as the immediate effects of the cross spread like ripples and still spread throughout the earth.
- – and the earth shook
- – and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened
- – and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised
- – and coming out of their tombs after His resurrection they went into the Holy city
- – and appeared to many.
The effects of the cross immediately affected the natural world as well as the spiritual. Rocks split in two – things that we often regard as firm and secure, turn out to be fragile and temporary.
Hebrews 12:26-28 “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.“
Rocks splitting meant tombs opened too and dead saints were raised to life as a foretaste of the final resurrection to come. They were seen not just by a few but by many.
All of these things meant that the Roman soldier in charge of putting Jesus to death got the same revelation that all Christians receive “Surely this was the Son of God”. On the third day as He comes bursting forth – that will change to “Surely this is the Son of God”.
What glory Christ’s death has achieved for us!